The look of disappointment on Michigan men’s soccer coach
Steve Burns’ face said it all. It was a game the Wolverines
needed to win, but like so many previous times this season, the
unexpected got in the way once again.

The Wolverines’ bubble of hope for a bid to the NCAA
Tournament all but burst yesterday after the team dropped its
season finale to Ohio State 2-0.

In an intense and penalty-ridden game, the Wolverines were
unable to get into an open scoring position and protect their home
field advantage. With the loss, they will likely have to win the
Big Ten Tournament to continue playing this season.

While the loss was tough for every player on the team, it was
especially hard for the seven departing seniors, who were honored
before the game. Having to succumb to their biggest rival in their
final home contest was not the way the seniors wanted to leave
things.

“It was definitely disappointing,” senior captain
Matt Niemeyer said. “It’s our last regular season game,
and we needed that win. But also, it was important to the seniors.
We wanted the win.”

The first half of the game was uneventful and at times
slow-paced. Both teams were lacking in strong offensive attacks and
fierce competitiveness. The game was still scoreless at halftime
and still either team’s game to win.

The second half was a different story.

In the first three minutes, Niemeyer was charged a yellow card
for pushing Ohio State’s Justin Cook from behind while he was
attempting a shot. The call was argued intensely by both Niemeyer
and the Michigan bench, but Cook was ultimately awarded a penalty
kick on Michigan’s net. With a tough shot sent to the lower
left end of the net, Cook was able to get the ball past Michigan
goalie Peter Dzubay to give the Buckeyes a 1-0 lead at 47:27.

“It’s tough to see (the penalty) from 70 yards
away,” Michigan coach Steve Burns said. “But when your
captain æ who is a Rhodes Scholar æ argues so
vociferously with the referee, you have to scratch your head a
little bit.”

The penalty against Niemeyer started a flow of cards and fouls
called against the Wolverines. By the end of the second half,
Michigan had racked up 13 fouls, five yellow cards and one red card
on Bobby Trybula.

“I thought we were rather undisciplined out there,”
Burns said. “That is very uncharacteristic of our team. We
are normally a very disciplined team. I think we did some dumb
things today. Goals that came against us were because we did things
that were out of our character, and that’s
disappointing.”

The Buckeyes scored their second and final goal at 75:34, and
the Wolverines were unable to put anything up on the scoreboard.
Burns attributed much of the quiet offense to his players’
fatigue.

“This team has nothing left in their legs right
now,” Burns said.

While a portion of the team’s problems may have been due
to fatigue, Burns also pointed to an unwillingness on his
players’ parts to battle fiercely for the win.

“I was extremely disappointed in the fire in our belly for
what statistically was a relatively evenly matched game,”
Burns said. “We did not show the fire in our belly against
arguably our biggest rival, and I’m extremely disappointed
with myself and the coaching staff that we couldn’t get that
out of our players.”

On Thursday at 2:30 p.m., the Wolverines will face off against
the Buckeyes once again in the first round of the Big Ten
Tournament. Burns hopes that his team will come out as a different
squad for the game, given rest and time to let the loss sink
in.

“I think that this game is enough motivation to prepare us
for Thursday,” Turpin said. “We know what we have to
do.”

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